Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rejected a measure on Wednesday that would have required women to wait three full days before being allowed to have an abortion procedure. His veto prevents Missouri from joining Utah and South Dakota, which are the only two states in the nation that currently have a 72-hour abortion waiting period on the books.
Reproductive rights advocates have been urging Nixon to veto the proposed waiting period ever since the GOP-controlled legislature sent it to his desk in May. It wasn’t clear exactly how the governor — who has approved some abortion restrictions in the past — would come down on the measure. But on Wednesday, Nixon explained that he couldn’t approve the bill because it’s unnecessary in light of his state’s existing 24-hour waiting period.
“Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make,” the governor said in a statement. “Expanding the mandatory waiting period presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention. This is insulting to women, particularly in light of what the law already requires.”
Nixon also pointed out the measure demonstrates a “callous disregard” for women’s well being by failing to include an exception for victims of rape and incest — which means that women who become pregnant through those crimes would be put through a potentially emotionally damaging wait before they’re allowed to end the pregnancy. “It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare,” the governor noted.
That’s exactly why hundreds of Missouri residents have been protesting the proposed 72-hour waiting period for months. When the measure first came up for consideration, women delayed their testimony against it for 72 hours to make the point that’s a totally arbitrary amount of time. And once the bill started making its way through the legislature, activists held a 72-hour “citizen’s filibuster” to speak out against lawmakers’ attempt to impose additional barriers to women’s health care services in a state that has just one abortion clinic left.
Reproductive health advocates are celebrating Nixon’s veto, pointing out that it demonstrates he was listening to the protesters who made their opinions known about the legislation. “Missourians of all stripes spoke out against this bill and refused to back down, from the women who camped out for three days and nights at the State Capitol to thousands of people who used Twitter to hold politicians accountable for trying to take away a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in response to Wednesday’s news.
There’s a chance that the Missouri legislature will try to override Nixon’s veto of the legislation, a tactic that Republicans in the state often employ to attempt to circumvent the governor. An override would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers. Opponents of the legislation say there’s no telling exactly how that vote will go, and there’s a chance that lawmakers won’t be able to pull it off — something that’s happened before with attempts to override vetoes of measures related to tax cuts and gun regulations.
In sharp contrast to Missouri, several other states enacted further restrictions on their residents’ abortion rights this week. New anti-abortion laws took effect at the beginning of July in states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Indiana.